CLOSE

The Day Everyone in Sweden Had to Start Driving On the Other Side of the Road

On September 3, 1967, Swedes waking up to run normal Sunday errands had to account for a rather drastic overnight change. Starting that morning, all cars in Sweden had to drive on the right side of the road. It was Dagen Högertrafik ("H Day"), "right-hand traffic diversion day."

Since the advent of the automobile though September 2, 1967, Swedish motorists had been driving on the left. This was mainly out of habit. Carriage traffic in the 18th and 19th centuries flowed down the left side of Sweden’s narrow roads, and the tradition continued with cars even though most automobiles in the country were left-hand drive. Drivers sat all the way on the other side of the road from oncoming traffic, and authorities feared this contributed to accidents (especially head-on collisions). Sweden’s neighboring countries all had right-side traffic patterns, and border crossings played out like a game of chicken in ultra-slow-mo.

For decades, Swedish authorities wanted to institute a change, though the public was vehemently against it. A referendum was held in 1955 on the matter, and Swedes came out in droves to reject the switch—82.9 percent of voters insisted they still wanted to drive on the left. In 1963, the Swedish Riksdag eschewed public opinion and decided to finally make the change. They circled a date that would give everyone enough time to prepare: September 3, 1967.

Preparing Drivers For the Right Side

A country doesn’t simply wake up one morning and start following new traffic rules in perfect unison, though if there were one such country, it would likely be Sweden. Authorities treated Dagen H as a public safety measure and social experiment rolled into one. According to Time, psychologists were hired to talk with drivers and pedestrians to gauge concerns and help determine the most effective ways to promote the change.

A massive PR campaign was launched to alert everyone of the upcoming H Day. Swedish television held a songwriting contest to find the best ditties about driving on the right side of the road. A Stockholm department store sold men’s shorts emblazoned with a big “H” on their butts. Around the country, signs were erected to serve as reminders—they simply read “3.9 1967.” By Dagen H, everyone knew what they meant.

Högertrafik For You, Högertrafik For Me, Högertrafik For Everybody

In preparation for the change, Sweden's road network had to be readied through a myriad of projects. Street and highway signs around the country were to be reversed or changed. Bus stops were moved across streets. In Sweden’s biggest cities, trams were removed from their tracks and replaced with buses that featured doors on their right-hand sides. New traffic signals were installed but shrouded in black plastic, waiting for the big day to be unveiled.

Starting at 1 a.m. on the morning of September 3 (and as early as 10 a.m. the previous day in large cities like Stockholm), no one in Sweden was allowed to drive. The roads were cleared of non-essential traffic until 5 a.m. and, throughout the night, state employees went to work.

Crowds started gathering in Stockholm’s biggest intersections around 4 a.m. According to a Glasgow Herald reporter, the event was treated “almost as a festival.” Fireworks filled the light Scandinavian morning sky and “singing from an impromptu choir” rang out. At a busy junction, the Scottish journalist watched what looked to be “every taxi driver in Stockholm” line up in anticipation. At 4:50 a.m., “cycles and taxis were guided across the road by the police.” They would never drive on the left side ever again.

In Sweden’s larger cities, civilian traffic wasn’t permitted to return to its normal levels until the afternoon, but by early evening the entire country had flip-flopped over to the right side of the street.

Throughout the Sunday of Dagen H, there were 157 reported automobile accidents, fewer than an average Sunday in Sweden. The Monday after the change saw 125 reported accidents which, again, was a lower number than normal. A visiting British traffic expert was impressed with the change, but didn't want to get ahead of himself. "We have only seen the bride and groom brought to the altar," he told the AP. "The citizens of Sweden have now embarked on their honeymoon. It is too early to judge the results.”

Accident levels returned to normal after six weeks, and the dip immediately after the change was likely the result of highly prudent driving. Still, Dagen H is seen as a success that is unlikely to ever be repeated on such a large scale. Feel free to celebrate Sweden's achievement today by letting your hair down and driving on the correct side of the road in an orderly fashion.

Original image
iStock
arrow
technology
Wisconsin Considers Building a Highway Lane for Self-Driving Cars
Original image
iStock

Self-driving cars are already a reality, as companies like Google and Tesla have demonstrated. But the logistics of getting them on the roads with human-operated cars have slowed down their long-anticipated takeover. In Wisconsin, highway planners are looking into one way to accommodate autonomous vehicles when they arrive. Dedicated lanes for driverless cars are being considered for I-94, USA Today’s Journal Sentinel reports.

The project is supported by Foxconn, the Taiwanese tech supplier building a new facility 20 miles outside of downtown Milwaukee. Once the site is complete, it will cover 20 million square feet and employ up to 13,000 people. According to the company, setting aside space for self-driving vehicles could ease traffic congestion, both from new workers and cargo trucks, after the factory opens.

Officials were already planning to expand I-94 from six lanes to eight to accommodate the eventual increase in traffic, but Foxconn says that may not be enough. “We’re thinking about two years down the road; they’re thinking 20 years down the road,” Tim Sheehy, president of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, said at a meeting of the Greater Milwaukee Committee.

While Sheehy said the autonomous car lane proposal is “on the table,” he didn’t make any promises regarding the plan’s future. Wisconsin isn’t the only state looking ahead to new developments in road travel: In October, tech investors pitched an idea to Washington state officials to convert Interstate 5 into a corridor for autonomous vehicles between Seattle and Vancouver.

[h/t Journal Sentinel]

Original image
Ford
arrow
technology
Ford Tests Exoskeletons That Make Overhead Tasks Easier for Workers
Original image
Ford

Engineers have already developed exoskeletons capable of supporting elderly people and helping paralyzed people walk. But the technology offers benefits to able-bodied wearers as well. That's what employees are learning at Ford's U.S. factories. As Road Show reports, workers there are suiting up in upper body exoskeletons designed to alleviate fatigue and decrease their chance of injury.

Assembling car parts requires workers to reach their arms above their heads thousands of times a day. While most healthy individuals would have no problem doing this type of work for a few minutes at a time, the rate at which these employees are completing the tasks puts an enormous strain on their bodies. This can lead to back and shoulder fatigue, soreness, and even injury.

In an effort to make their workforce more comfortable and productive, Ford has been testing the EksoVest from Ekso Bionics in two of its American auto plants. The non-powered suits fit people between 5 feet and 6 feet 4 inches tall. The lightweight design provides up to 15 pounds of support to each arm without weighing wearers down or restricting their movements. According to Ford, the pilot program has contributed to an 83 percent drop in the number of incidents that led to time off between 2005 and 2016. And on top of staying healthy enough to go to work, employees have reported feeling more energized during their off hours.

The EksoVest has already helped workers launch several new vehicles, including the 2018 Ford Mustang and the 2018 Lincoln Navigator. Following the trial program's success, the automobile company next plans to test the technology in factories in Europe and South America.

[h/t Road Show]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios